Friday, March 31, 2006

Penang's New Bus Routes

Nope, it's no April Fool's Joke. The new public bus system for Penang will take effect from tomorrow. I would have blogged about this a few days ago if I had a copy of the map showing the new bus routes earlier. I just got a copy of them from the Penang Municipal Council website which wasn't of much help, really. You can judge for yourself by clicking on the maps below.

Penang Bus Routes Penang Bus Routes
(pictures from Penang Municipal Council)

Browsing through the maps is such a hassle. You can't zoom in or out which makes it very dysfunctional. Fret not, I've generated the maps into PDF for your (and my) convenience; for both stage buses and mini buses. Why they have not thought of distributing the maps as PDF, I really cannot comprehend but that is a topic for another time. :P

I'm happy that something is being done to eleviate the dilapidating public transportation system in Penang. To be fair, Penang is not alone in facing this problem but it's probably more chronic here than compared to towns like Ipoh, Alor Setar or Kuantan, to name a few. In the new system, stage buses will ply the main roads and mini buses will play the role as feeder buses. The public transportation system in the state will also be seperated into three zones to reduce competition and increase efficiency.

From what I can see, the new system is very good in many ways IF properly implemented and enforced by the relevant authorities. In the new system, a larger area will be covered which is a very good thing considering many routes were not serviced in the previous system because they were considered less profitable. People complaining that they do not have a bus taking them directly to a certain destination is really living in a dream. Even in Singapore you have to hop on several buses and MRTs to get to a certain destination and their public transportation system is world-class!!! This is the most viable and efficient way, really. You just can't provide direct services to everywhere! That's totally insane. They should be thankful that more areas are reachable now with the new system which were totally impossible previously. You can hop onto a connecting bus easily with the new system thus taking you to more places on the island than previously possible. If you want to stop directly at the doorstep of a particular destination, you should probably take the taxi instead.

One major reason for the meltdown of the public transportation system in Penang, in my opinion, is the bus leasing system implemented awhile back. This created serious competition among the drivers whom totally neglected the safety, comfort and needs of the passengers. The only thought on their minds were to maximise earnings and I truly cannot blame them for that. They have families to feed and expenses to pay. They have no social obligation to anyone but themselves. I put the blame on the bus companies instead. They do have a social obligation to provide a reasonable and acceptable standard of public transport. They were issued the licenses to operate such services and should be held accountable. They were not issued the licenses solely to make a profit.

The only way to curb this problem is for the bus companies to hire drivers and pay them a basic monthly income. Only then will the drivers not feel the need to maximise profits first and attend to the needs of passengers second. The needs of commuters should always come first. In the present system the companies are not running a public transportation business but a bus leasing business instead which is totally wrong! I'm sure they were issued permits and licenses to provide public transport and not lease buses. This way, the bus companies cannot wash their hands clean if any problem arises. They will also find the need to keep their buses in proper condition since they will be held accountable for the deplorable state of their buses. They will directly feel the pinch if a bus breaks down and at the receiving end of any action arising from complaints lodged against them instead of drivers who are feeling the heat at the moment. Commuters should be given a bigger role to play by providing channels for them to lodge complaints and stern action taken immediately on the perpetrators. Only then will the bus companies and drivers be on their toes all the time and provide the best services to the public.

STAR-LRT at Bandar Tasik Selatan

What we would need urgently apart from the revamp of the current public tranportation system is a light rail system or the alternative of a monorail which has been suggested by the Penang State Government. It's good that the Penang Monorail has been promised in the 9th Malaysian Plan but it still remains to be seen if it becomes a reality since it was promised to us a decade ago but put on hold time and again. Till today, it remains a promise and nothing more. To improve the new bus system further, an introduction of a payment card like the one widely used in Singapore's public transportation system through Touch 'n Go or something else would be very much welcomed. There are many benefits of using a payment card instead of cash and the bus companies should seriously consider this avenue.

Frankly, I find the current bus rates to be quite costly to actually attract and encourage people to switch over to public transport. Prices should be reduced and utilising a payment card system can help reduce costs in several ways which can be translated to higher profits in the long-run. It is still to be seen how successful the revamp of the bus system will be but at least it is a very good first step in improving the public transportation on the island. Let's see how the system pans out tomorrow. It will definitely be chaotic for at least a month or so when the drivers and commuters get used to the new system but I foresee a good outcome from this and you don't find me saying this often about the Penang State Government or something related to Teng Hock Nan. Can we expect clean, safe and reliable buses in the near future with the implementation of the new system? Only time will tell and I truly hope that is the case.


  1. yea...the bus fare is too high for my liking. it's worse since i have to take 2 buses each time.

    haiz. want to buy a car...but hang on, petrol prices are up too...

  2. i saw the extent of the pricing in the papers today and i nearly fainted! they should seriously look into revising the fares! i remember taking the bus in Singapore and it was like 36cents?!? wat odd pricing but it makes u feel not cheated especially when you have such an efficient system. the mrt ride was insanely cheap considering the distance covered!!!

    if u r seriously thinking of a car, get something like my SLK ;) ...petrol won't burn such a big hole in your pocket. considering that you and your sister might be paying more than rm10 per day for just travelling to and fro the campus, a car might sound a very viable option.

  3. i was talking to my mom about it today. but i can only consider a car when my salary comes in again! and that's in june!i am so broke... :(

    i think i can only afford to buy the slk! looks like i have to toughen up and face the roads of penang. i am nervous about driving though...i am hopeless on the roads! anyone care to give me a driving lesson? :)

  4. tell me about it...i'm worried how i am to pay for next semester's fees!

    driving tip: leave home at 6am and on start leaving for home after 10pm... :P

  5. alternative solutions:

    -jalan kaki
    -roller blade

    *thumbs up*

    speaking of which, i plan to learn roller blading. :P

  6. imagine this...

    2am - start walking
    9am - reach school
    12pm- recover from exhaustion
    4pm - wash tanks
    5pm - recover from exhaustion
    6pm - start journey home
    1am - reach home, sleep
    2am - start walking again...

    dave u are so brilliant! thanks for your suggestions...muakz... :P

  7. you forgot time to makan...time for analytical work...time to see boss...time to read papers/journal etc.

    of course, you can read, eat and walk at the same time! :P

    i would rather take the bus even if it means paying more or being squeezed like sardines! :P

  8. sarcasm at it best. :P

    and...6 hours to walk from ur place to usm???u're kidding me. i walked from pulau tikus to usm and back in 6 hours! (i trekked with a friend the other time). was pretty fun. :P

    then we went to youth park's grave yard. that was sooo cool and took pictures there. some of my best pics were from there. hehee.

    ks: u forgot sleep walking too. :P btw, i sleep walked before. scary shit. luckily it was within the vicinity of npark.

  9. her house is FURTHER than pulau tikus and I would think she would be walking leisurely instead of 'trekking'...and ur calculation is's 7hrs, not 6...haha...

    i've one particular scout who has a serious problem with sleep-walking!!! really scary shit...don't want to go into details here...

  10. thanks for correcting that uncle dave...he can't even count? haiseh man...! hahaha!

    u trek to pulau tikus? which hutan u masuk lah? :)

    i actually remember ur graveyard pictures! they were really nice. so are your other pictures too.

    sleepwalking? why don't u blog abt it? sounds interesting!

  11. youth park cemetery is nothing. it actually feels tranquil in there in the middle of the nite, whenever we conduct our ghost hunt activities there.

    u should try the batu lanchang and especially the mount erskine cemeteries!!! man, those are creepy!